Cowardly Priests and Scribes
“It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, ‘Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.’”- Mark 14:1–2
Once more, the priests and scribes appear as enemies of Christ as Mark 14:1–2 describes the plot of these men to have Jesus arrested and killed. Today’s passage tells us that a gathering of these religious leaders happened “two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread,” which was the Wednesday of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. For these men, Jesus was far too dangerous to keep alive. His cleansing of the temple threatened their authority, and it could also encourage unrest in the crowd that might bring violent Roman reprisal (11:15–19). Moreover, His teaching was gladly received by the crowds, and His words were by no means favorable toward most of the religious leaders (chap. 12).
Despite wanting Jesus dead, the scribes and priests were afraid to move against Him openly. They feared the response should they kill the people’s beloved teacher (14:1–2). Thus is revealed the cowardice of our Lord’s enemies. Their behavior was driven by their fear of the people. Only if their hand was forced would they act during the upcoming Jewish feasts. John Calvin makes much of the fact that Jesus was nevertheless crucified during the holidays. Calvin comments that it demonstrates the sovereignty of God over the events. It also demonstrates that our Lord’s death occurred first and foremost because the Father gave up His Son at the appointed time as the sacrifice for our sin. God planned the crucifixion to atone for sin, for Jesus to be our Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). He ordained for it to happen during Passover despite the wishes of Christ’s opponents.
That Jesus died during Passover is theologically significant. Mark 14:1–2 mentions both Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Passover began the weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread, and together the holidays commemorated God’s work in redeeming His people from slavery to the Egyptians (Ex. 12). On the first Passover, lambs were sacrificed and the blood spread on the doors of Israelite homes so that the Lord would pass over the Israelites and inflict His wrath only on the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. This was a sacrifice of atonement wherein the blood symbolically covered the sins of the Israelites. Obviously, the omniscient and omnipresent Lord did not need to see blood to locate His people and spare them. But His people needed blood to shield them from judgment. Christ would die as the fulfillment of this sacrifice, His blood being the only thing that can shield us from God’s everlasting judgment.
Jesus died during Passover to show us that He is the Lamb of God who shields us from divine wrath and frees us from the dominion of sin. This is what God Himself ordained, for salvation is from Him alone, motivated by His great love for His people. Let us thank and praise Him for His grace and love that shields us in Christ from the wrath we deserve.
Passages for Further Study